Chandigarh: The victory of the Jalandhar Lok Seat (SC) by-election on Saturday came as a big win for the chief minister Bhagwant Mann-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab, which had just completed its first year of rule in March. Literally, and how.
The AAP which fought broad-shouldered the incessant tirade of the opposition parties on various issues in the high-stake poll, showcased its efforts to fulfil its poll promises to voters and, snatched from Congress its traditional seat.
AAP repairs its image in Punjab
Besides, in this victory, the AAP also repaired its image that had got a jolt after facing the humiliating drubbing in last year June's bypoll of Sangrur Lok Sabha seat, which was vacated by Bhagwant Mann after becoming the chief minister. This rout had badly bruised AAP image as it had come with a stunning win – 92 of the total 117 seats – in the February, 2022 Punjab assembly election.
This by-election, in which the AAP had fielded Sushil Kumar Rinku, a former Congress MLA who had joined AAP recently, won with a margin of over 58,000; Rinku secured over 3.02 lakh votes while the Congress’ candidate Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary, the widow of Congress MP Santokh Chaudhary, bagged 2.43 lakh votes. This seat had fallen vacant after Chaudhary’s demise during the Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra in Jalandhar on January 14 this year.
With Rinku’s victory, the AAP has also re-entered the Lok Sabha which had no AAP member from Punjab after Mann’s exit.
The SAD-BSP candidate Sukhwinder Sukhi came third with 1.58 lakh votes and the BJP’s Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal, a former Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) legislator, finished a poor fourth with 1.34 lakh votes.
Reacting over the bypoll result the AAP supremo and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said it was the unprecedented victory and because of CM Bhagwant Mann’s good work in Punjab.
It was a high-stake bypoll for all the four political majors and intensely fought on the burning issues about law and order, corruption, development, employment, drugs, sacrilege and an alleged immoral act of Mann’s Cabinet minister. Besides, it was seen as a warm-up for the upcoming 2024 national polls.
Though a Congress stronghold for over 24 years in a row, the AAP had breached its bastion in 2022 assembly polls. While Congress could win five of the total nine assembly seats – Jalandhar Cantt, Jalandhar north, Adampur, Shahkot and Phillaur, the AAP won remaining Jalandhar central, Jalandhar west, Nakodar and Kartarpur seats.
The opposition fiercely tore into the AAP for its failure to fulfil its pre-poll promises including appointment of Dalit deputy chief minister, non-payment of monthly Rs 1,000 to all adult women and alleged inaction in the sacrileges cases, beside deteriorating law and order situation in the state.
The opposition leaders also highlighted the alleged ``VVIP culture’’ of AAP leaders, expenditure of Rs 45 crore on renovation of Kejriwal’s official residence, having double Z-plus security – from Centre and Punjab – as well as the heavy security and huge cavalcade of Bhagwant Mann.
The AAP on the other hand, had Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann campaigning for Rinku for days together highlighting AAP government’s works done so far including free power upto 300 units to about 80% of the domestic consumers, opening 580 Aam Aadmi clinics and job appointment letters to 28,000 people, besides its efforts against the corruption in the state.